Fancy Pants at FPSF: Breakfast with Uchi's Philip Speer and Rap Legend Bun B
Photos by Mai Pham From top left: Plating, Blaffer tent, Philip Speer and Bun B, chicken karaage
It was Saturday morning, and I was hot. As in super caliente, sweat dripping down my back, and cheeks flushed to a bright pink uncomfortable kind of hot. I'd just fought my way through the entrance of the Free Press Summer Fest so that I could be on time for the Fancy Pants, ultra-exclusive $175 per person breakfast at the Blaffer Art Museum tent, and for the life of me, I couldn't tell that we were in an air-conditioned space.
All I could think about was ice water. In fact, I passed on the delicious cocktail that bartender extraordinaire Ryan Rouse had created, asking for ice and bottled water instead. Then I made my way to my seat, avoiding the throngs of people chit-chatting, and plopped myself down ahead of the crowd, trying to cool down.
But then something miraculous happened.
After a brief introduction by the organizers, rap legend Bun B took the microphone and told us that our first course would pork chops made by Philip Speer and his team from Uchi Houston. Without skipping a beat, he went on to rap his "Choppin' Blades" -- standing all of three feet away from me -- and made me forget about the heat.
Something about his music, and the experience, took me to this other place, shifting my focus from the uncomfortable heat to the spectacle unfolding before me.
That's the power of performance art, something that all the people in attendance had gathered to witness that morning. For the breakfast, Bun B had collaborated with Speer for a musical-arts-meets-culinary-arts performance breakfast. Together, they had chosen specific songs from Bun B's songbook, using them as a springboard for creativity, with each song providing inspiration for a specific course.
My favorite course, thematically speaking, was the pork belly bun with pickles and herbs, created to pair with Bun B's self-titled song, "Bun." The play on words was the perfect translation of song into food. The other winner of the morning was the fried chicken course, which Bun B introduced as "Chicken sh*t." For that course, Speer took Uchi's chicken karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, and plated it with sweet chili and smoked potato salad.
By the time the finale came around, the high temperatures were the last thing on my mind. In fact, after getting a whiff of the cold liquid nitrogen that had spilled to the ground in a huge blanket of frosty smoke, along with a short icy blast of liquid-nitrogen quick-frozen Cap'n Crunch ice cream, Bun B's rap said all there was to say: "I'm cold!"
This breakfast was organized by the Blaffer Museum of Art as a media breakfast to showcase their upcoming exhibition of "Feast: Radical Hospitality and Contemporary Art," which opens this September. For more information about Blaffer Art Museum and the exhibit, please visit: www.blafferartmuseum.org